No, I’m not going to do the old joke, “this is Norfolk and you’re welcome to it”. Norfolk may be one of the flattest counties in the UK but it’s a pleasantly rural county characterised by flint cottages. Very picturesque in a flat sort of way.
When my father retired many years ago (35 years ago?), my parents made the classic mistake [for them] of leaving family and moving … up to Norfolk, buying a bungalow in the curiously named village of Repps with Bastwick, or Repps cum Bastwick, as the old decorated village sign says [Latin cum = with]. “Curious” because the village didn’t have a pub. What self-respecting village in those days would be seen without a pub? Nowadays, what sort of village doesn’t have an Indian restaurant that used to be a pub? Anyway, Repps is actually one village (sans pub) on one side of the main road and Bastwick is another village (also sans pub) on the other side of the same main road. I used to come and visit them up here for a week. Why, when neither village on either side of the road had a pub or an Indian Restaurant is completely beyond me. Not too long after – I can’t remember how long – they made the second classic mistake [this time for me] of moving back to my town, “to be close to me”. Bollocks! Why do parents insist on following their children around?
I have been to Norfolk since the days of visiting mes parents but it was still a very long time ago. This weekend we set sail to spend almost two weeks in Norfolk for the first time in many years, complete with new bionic eyeball, essentially in search of a dragonfly dubbed, by the BDS, the Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles). We [the Brits] call it the Norfolk Hawker because it used to exist in the UK only in Norfolk. Fortunately, despite our increasingly crappy climate, the Norfolk Hawker seems to be spreading and is now breeding in Cambridgeshire. Nonetheless, I wanted to see it in its home territory, where there might be greater chance of success, and, being now stuck in the UK as a result of recent eyeball operations, a Norfolk Hawker search was a good excuse to visit somewhere different.
Regrettably, the weather forecast is not Odo-friendly. In fact, the weather forecast isn’t particularly Homo sapiens friendly either, and we drove for almost three hours under black skies through downpours and buffeting winds to get here. We even drove past my parents old bungalow in Repps cum Bastwick to get here. And here we are, still under black skies with gusting winds but the downpours for the moment have ceased. Yesterday was the summer solstice with the sun at its northern hemisphere zenith. Today the temperature topped out at a paltry 17°C. It’s pathetic! I want to emigrate!! The trouble is my mother is still living three miles away from me [see above].
There are other forms of tourism than Odo-tourism, even for an Odo-nutter. One alternative form of tourism of which I’m particularly fond is gastro-tourism – the art of savouring the flavours of the world. For a gastro-tourist, Norfolk has its flavours to be sampled. On the north Norfolk coast lies Cromer, justly famous for its Cromer crabs. We will certainly be trying to savour of few examples of those. Norwich, the county town and most easterly city in the UK, is home to the Colman’s mustard empire. Colman’s mustard isn’t that namby-pamby mild stuff from foreign countries but is pungent mustard, the mustard that goes with roast beef, complete with vapours that get inside your nasal cavities and make your eyes water – proper mustard. Pork pies must also be accompanied by Colman’s mustard. I’ll certainly be on the look out for an opportunity to enjoy one with some of that essential bright yellow local condiment.
With a little historic insider knowledge I’m also acutely aware of another delicacy with which I’m especially keen to get reacquainted. On the north coast lies another village called Cley-next-the-sea [Cley pronounced Cl-eye]. Here there is, or at least used to be, a wonderful little smokehouse producing the most delicious smoked eels, amongst other things. I’ll be upset if I don’t see a Norfolk Hawker but, though eels are in serious decline and in need of protection, the gastro-tourist in me will be devastated if I don’t sample a Cley smoked one. That’s if the smokehouse still exists, of course. If it doesn’t still exist, I’ll be even more devastated ‘cos yet another skilful local producer of something very special, another cottage industry that should be applauded, will have disappeared. Watch this space.
Tonight, having got ourselves pitched and settled, we dined on something very much not Norfolk. This evening we ate Guillaume’s first ever risotto, a seafood risotto made with prawns, mussels and squid with a hint of fresh of fresh basil. And very good it was too, even though I say so myself. 😉
Tomorrow’s weather forecast is for much of the same, black skies with rain and wind. Isn’t summer in the UK a joy?